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Austin Beginnings: An Exhibit of Memorable Austin Firsts
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First Year Firsts: 1839
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Education and Religion

Photo: Texas State School for the Deaf
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bullet: next itemOrganized by Professor J. Van Nostrand, the Texas State School for the Deaf was established in 1857. Initial enrollment consisted of seven students. Classes were held in a farmhouse on the south side of the Colorado River. The farmhouse and the 57 acres around it were rented for the first year and then purchased by the state the following year.

Photo: Pease School
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bullet: next itemThe first Texas school built with public funds was here in Austin. The Austin Graded School, later known as Pease School in honor of Governor Pease, began in 1876. The first public school students were given very strict rules of conduct--much harsher than today's regulations.

Photo: early Pease students
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"Pupils may not leave their seats without permission.
Pupils may not communicate with each other in any way.
In the morning, the male pupils will enter through the center door and females through the side doors.
At lunch time, the males and the females will be kept separate.
The use of tobacco in any form is strictly prohibited.
Pupils who arrive before nine and engage in sports unfit themselves for study.
Such pupils must go to their classroom and enter their studies." Austin Graded School. Rules of Conduct, c.1876.

Photo: Temple Beth Israel
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bullet: next itemThe first Jewish congregation in Austin, Temple Beth Israel, was established in 1876 and consisted of approximately thirty families. Henry Hirshfeld was elected the first president. Construction of the synagogue on a lot purchased at the corner of Mesquite (11th) and San Jacinto did not begin until 1881. In the interim, services were held at the Odd Fellow's Hall or at Mr. Sampson's Hall; the building was completed in 1884.

"The Israelites of Austin will hold a meeting this evening at 2 p.m. at the Odd Fellow's Hall, for the purpose of forming a congregation. All are cordially invited to attend." Daily Statesman, September 24, 1876

Photo: Jessie Andrews
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bullet: next itemWhat one woman pioneered four important educational events for Austin and the State of Texas? Jessie Andrews did and her four notable feats were: to be the first woman to enroll at the University of Texas; to graduate from U.T.; to be a member of the Alumni Association of U.T.; and to teach at U.T. Andrews enrolled at the University of Texas in 1883, at the tender age of sixteen. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree at age nineteen, and by 1888 had served as an instructor in the German Department of the University.

Photo: UT Main building
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bullet: next itemIn 1839, Judge Edwin Waller planned the city of Austin and set aside 40 acres of land "most eligible for a University." Although Texas legislators at many times had considered the establishment of a state university, it was not until after the Civil War and Reconstruction that the negotiations began. Finally, on March 30, 1881, a bill was passed by state legislators establishing the University of Texas.

"The Legislature shall, as soon as practicable, establish, organize, and provide the maintenance, support, and direction of a university of the first class, to be located by a vote of the people of the State and styled 'The University of Texas,' for the promotion of literature and the arts and sciences, including an agricultural and mechanical department." 1875 Constitutional Convention.

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